Sayaji Rao Gaekwad III (1875-1939 AD). It was the dream of this able administrator to make Baroda an educational, industrial and commercial centre and he ensured that his dream would come true.
Baroda is situated on the banks of the river Vishwamitri (whose name is derived from the great saint Rishi Vishwamitra). The city was once called Chandravati, after its ruler Raja Chandan, then Viravati, the abode of the brave, and then Vadpatra because of the abundance of banyan trees on the banks of the Vishwamitri. From Vadpatra it derived its present name Baroda or Vadodara.
Baroda has a rich historical background. The ardent historian can trace Baroda’s history over 2000 years and more. However, the recent threads can be picked up when the Moghul rule over the city came to an end in 1732, when Pilaji brought the Maratha activities in Southern Gujarat to a head and captured it. Except for a short break, Baroda continued to be in the hands of the Gaekwads from 1734 to 1949.
The greatest period in the Maratha rule of Baroda started with the accession of Maharaja Sayajirao III in 1875. It was an era of great progress and constructive achievements in all fields.
Maharaja Sayajirao was one of the foremost administrators and reformers of his times. He initiated a series of bold socio-economic reforms. He attached great importance to economic development and started a number of model industries to encourage initiative, and then handed back the working industries to private enterprise. He started model textile and tile factories. It is as a result of his policy of industrial development that Baroda is today one of the most important centers for textile, chemical and oil industries. He introduced a number of social reforms. In no department of administration has the far-sighted policy of this wise ruler been more conspicuous than in education, and in none have the results been more real and tangible. He boldly introduced compulsory primary education and a library movement (the first of its kind in India) to augment his adult education scheme.
It was he who visualized a general scheme of development in all branches of knowledge at different stages, with the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda at the apex. Modern Baroda owes its beauty, its educational institutions and its masterpieces of architecture to the insight and vision of this great ruler.